Israel delivered a threatening message to Egypt, according to which it would take action against militants in the Sinai if Cairo did not take responsibility and secure the countries' shared border, Egyptian officials indicated on Saturday.
The reported message was transferred days after Sinai militants fired a volley of Grad-type Katyusha rockets into a residential area of the southern Israeli city of Eilat, and a little over a month since militants attacked a gas pipeline in the desert Peninsula that transports fuel to neighboring Israel and Jordan for the 12th time.
According to Egyptian officials, the fall of a grad rocket in Eilat and Egypt’s denial that it was fired from the Sinai Peninsula has created new tensions between Israel and Egypt, with Israel sending a resolute “and even threatening” message to the Egyptian Military Council regarding the council’s responsibility for events occurring in the Sinai.
The warning message, sources said, included hints that Israel might be forced into taking action in the Sinai, if attacks against Israeli targets continue to originate from within the peninsula.
Hints of possible Israeli intervention in Sinai could intensify tension between the Bedouin and the Egyptian government, as well as put the fate of the Camp David agreements at risk.
Coupled with Egyptian media reports of Israeli forces massing close to the Egyptian border, the reported warning led to negative reactions from within the Egyptian public.
In an editorial, Halad Salah, editor of the newspaper Youm al Sabbah, warned Israel against using the “false” excuse of attacks from Sinai in order to try and create a rift among the Egyptian Public.
According to Salah, Israel is claiming that it now faces security threats originating from within Egypt, and that the situation in Egypt, specifically the rise of the Islamists “is the main threat, as reported by Israeli newspapers, under the influence of the Shin Bet and the Mossad.” If Israel continues to blame the Egyptians, it will soon discover that all Egyptians are united against it.
However, despite public backlash, the Egyptian Supreme Military Council is aware of its ineptitude in the Sinai, especially after Bedouin militias “conquered” two police stations in El-Arish and Sheikh Zuweid, and are not allowing Egyptian forces to monitor the trade taking place through tunnels between Sinai and the Gaza Strip.
The Egyptian government announced on Saturday that, in cooperation with Israel, it has started deploying troops in the northern Sinai Peninsula in order to stop the anarchy and terror there.
In both cases, while the news was apparently good from Israel's point of view, it might be better not to hold your breath. Egypt's loss of control in Sinai (Katyusha rockets were fired on Eilat on Wednesday night ), is too serious to be stopped in one go. And the shift in Egyptian public opinion over the last year has been so extreme in the wake of the Mubarak regime's fall that it is hard to see how Suleiman, one of its members, could put the brakes on the rising wave of Islamism.
Security sources in Egypt confirmed the announcement by the head of Egypt's forces in Sinai, Gen. Salah al-Masri, that Cairo was undertaking a broad campaign in Sinai to enforce law and order.
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